HS2: Foreign suppliers will need to leave legacy for UK rail industry

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Foreign rolling stock manufacturers will need to demonstrate how they will deliver a legacy for British industry if they want to supply new high-speed trains for HS2, the UK’s Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said.

Grayling was responding to a question from Alstom’s HS2 director, Henrik Anderberg, at the ‘HS2: Phase One and Beyond’ conference in London’s Docklands about whether HS2 would impose strict domestic content requirements – as is the case in the US where Alstom recently won a contract to build a new fleet of high-speed trains for the NEC.

A lack of experience in delivering high-speed rail systems in the UK will make the participation of foreign companies essential, said Grayling, but suppliers will need to show how they will create a lasting benefit to Britain’s rail industry through the creation of new jobs and apprenticeships.

Several foreign manufacturers are now investing in UK facilities, including Hitachi, which opened its Newton Aycliffe site last year, and Alstom, which began construction of a new training and technology centre in Widnes last week.

Although a Canadian company, the long history of train building at Bombardier’s Litchurch Lane factory means it is often considered as Britain’s only domestic rolling stock manufacturer.

The site is currently working on the Class 345 fleet for Crossrail, but it faced an uncertain future several years ago when a decision was made to award the Thameslink rolling stock contract to Siemens. It was a controversial decision at the time because, although Siemens employed thousands of people in its UK rail business, it had no rolling stock manufacturing site in the UK.

This morning, the Department for Transport (DfT) sent out a press release reiterating the government’s commitment to HS2 and the creation of a £70 million community and road safety fund.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We need HS2 now more than ever. We’re facing a rapidly approaching crunch-point. In the last 20 years alone, the number of people travelling on our railways has more than doubled and our rail network is the most intensively used of any in Europe.

“We need HS2 for the capacity it will bring on the routes between London, the West Midlands, Crewe, Leeds and Manchester as well as the space it’ll create elsewhere on our transport network.

“We need it for the boost it will give to our regional and national economies. And we need it for the jobs it will create, and for the way it will link our country together.”

HS2’s chief executive Simon Kirby, who announced his departure for Rolls Royce in last month, also spoke at the conference.

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